Michael Brady: A Man with a Mission
Thursday, June 28, 2018
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of interviews with some of the local candidates running for office. General election voting is Aug. 2.
Michael Brady, who seeks reelection as Grundy County mayor, took office mid crisis: an Affordable Care Act mandate to provide health insurance for county employees, cost $800,000, and state pressure to address jail overcrowding and fire code violations, or pay to house inmates elsewhere, cost $2.4 million. The county had just weathered a steep property tax hike and still verged on insolvency. Sixteen days into Brady’s first term, the fund balance dropped $14,000 into the red.
“It was a scary time,” Brady said.
Brady’s mantra is a question: “How will the decisions we make today affect the citizens of Grundy County tomorrow?”
With the help of legal counsel, Brady opted out of the $800,000 state health care plan and met with a broker, designing a 70-30 co-pay plan with the county’s cost just at $100,000.
“We could have done a cheaper plan, but I wanted to give the employees insurance with benefits,” Brady said. Fines for failure to offer insurance would have cost the county $160,000 the first year and more in subsequent years.
Similar financial scrutiny showed building a new jail was wiser than housing inmates elsewhere. The sheriff introduced management practices that saved money, and Brady found a USDA loan with a locked in interest rate that wouldn’t strain the county, given the additional funds available when the high school and Coalmont school debts are paid off in 2021 and 2022.
The county not only survived but thrived. It finished 2017 at $2.4 million in the black.
Brady insists combating poverty is Grundy County’s most pressing need and to do that, the county needs living wage jobs.
Infrastructure, education, and industrial recruitment top Brady’s list of prerequisites.
The county has 14 new road projects approved, Brady said, and he predicts the industrial park will soon be filled. “We’ve had two expansions, and a third one coming up, creating 30 new jobs.” A recent $230,000 grant award will provide infrastructure expansion for two existing businesses.
“Grundy County doesn’t have the funds to improve the industrial park,” Brady stressed. He tapped into an Economic and Community Development grant cycle that began with a state funded evaluation and growth plan, and this year funded $36,000 for geotech studies at the industrial park. Next year Brady expects to receive $1 million for infrastructure funding at the park.
“Tourism is our niche, as well,” Brady said, pointing out the average Grundy County household spends $600 less per year on taxes due to tourism revenue.
Grundy County recently received a $70,000 grant to help fund electric service to the Bluegrass Underground and another grant to purchase a section of rail bed on the Mountain Goat Trail.
Brady will use monies from a recent Accountability Award to launch certified welding and nursing assistant programs at Grundy County High School.
Since taking office Brady has scored more than $4 million in grants for the county. The number of residents living in poverty has decreased by 4 percent.
A Grundy County High School graduate, Brady trained as a welder, worked for United Technologies while attending night school, earned degrees in pre-law, and Management and Human Relations, took a job with the county tax assessor’s office and decided to run for county commissioner. He served one term, before running for mayor.
Brady and his wife Cindy have seven children. “I’ve lived in Grundy County my entire life,” Brady said. “I love Grundy County. It’s easy to say what I love about it and that’s the people. I want to create the community those people deserve. We’ve climbed a hill. I want to get to the top of the mountain.”